AWS CEO urges companies to "hire builders"

AWS Summit online 2020 featured a fireside chat that focused on the technologies, qualities, and priorities that make a successful organization.

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Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services, and Matt Garman, vice president of worldwide sales and marketing at AWS, talking during the AWS Summit 2020 online fireside chat. 

Image: Screenshot

During the virtual AWS Summit 2020 on Wednesday, Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon Web Services, and Matt Garman, vice president of worldwide sales and marketing at AWS, came together via video conference for a fireside chat. 

Garman began the conversation recognizing the "unique time" we are in, given the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 forced many tech conferences around the globe to go virtual, which is why Garman and Jassy both spoke from their respective homes. 

SEE: AWS Summit Online highlights (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

The unprecedented time has forced many companies to look inward, especially at their fundamental technologies, said Werner Vogels, CTO of AWS, during the opening keynote earlier Wednesday. 

One of those key pieces of tech is cloud, and there are some key components companies need to keep in mind to see success—in both business, and with the tech. 

How to successfully migrate to the cloud 

The first step is to realize the importance of transitioning to the cloud, and that can be recognized when thinking of efficiency. 

"Speed disproportionately matters in every business," Jassy said. 

"Certain companies have harder challenges than others, with being able to move and organize themselves to go quickly, but I do not believe that companies cannot move quickly," Jassy said. "It's up to us as leaders and as teams to not accept the world the way it's been, but to actually change the world. 

"If you are not moving quickly, you are going to have competitors who are moving quickly and you're going to find yourself chasing them, as opposed to leading," he said. 
To move quickly, "you have to make sure that you hire builders," Jassy said. 

"What I mean by builders are people that like to invent and people that like to look at different customer experiences that may be broken, be honest about those experiences, and try to figure out how to reinvent them," Jassy noted. 

Companies then need to organize those builders into smaller, autonomous, separable teams, according to Jassy. 

"In the early days of Amazon, we used to have the engineers in one group and the product managers in another group, and the operations people and another group. What you'd find is that when things didn't go right, there was all this finger pointing," Jassy said. 

By placing everyone under one team, people work together easier, own problems as one, and don't have as much conflict, Jassy added. 

The last element is simply giving builders the right building blocks that allow them to create and develop applications quickly.

While all of these steps are very doable, many people are still slipping on "banana peels" along the way, Garman said. 

SEE: Cross-training toolkit (TechRepublic Premium)

Slip-ups on the road to cloud

"There's still a segment of companies who are trying to fight gravity; they argue that they can still do the infrastructure less expensively than it can be done in the cloud or they have enough services to allow their organizations to move as quickly as people can in the cloud," Jassy said. 

"I don't think I've yet seen a company that can move at the cost structure and the pace of changing their customer experience that you can in AWS and in the cloud," Jassy said. 

One of the top reasons people hesitate to make the move is because they are proud of the infrastructure they've already built, they are resistant to change, or they don't want to go through the effort it takes to make a shift. 

"I've had a number of CIOs tell me, 'I know I'm going to have to do a data center refresh shortly, or a tech refresh and you're right, the cloud is going to allow us to move much more quickly over time, but that will be the next person's problem, not mine'," Jassy said. 

"At the end of the day, you could not want something to happen all you want, but you can't fight gravity," Jassy said. "If there's something that's really good for customers and for businesses, it is going to move that way whether you want to or not. The cloud is very much that."

Upcoming enterprise trends 

Jassy also discussed some of the trends he sees in the future for various industries. 

  • Customer service

The coronavirus has completely changed how customer service operates, as so many people converted to remote work, Jassy said. 

 "If you look at what's happened in the COVID crisis, where so many companies have had their customer service agents work at home, it's incredible how many companies have spun up Connect to help them deal with all of their calls from customers as times are changing," Jassy said. 

"The nature of customer services is changing and is going to continue to change. If you think about call center software, along with the ability to have virtual desktops in the cloud with things like workspaces, along with video conferencing, and then some hardware—it totally changes what customer service agents could do and where they do it from," Jassy said. 

  • Manufacturing and industrial 

Another area that will see significant change is the manufacturing and industrial sectors, according to Jassy. 

These factories will rely increasingly more on the cloud to store and process data taken from sensors and cameras on the factory floor.  

"Over time, you're going to see more and more facilities that have cameras inside them. They want more visibility into what's happening," Jassy said. "They want the ability to be able to detect at the edge with machine learning algorithms where there are differences in what they're seeing." 

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